A brief history of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

by Master Sgt. Dennis Valerio
86th Logistics Readiness Squadron

May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage month, a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders across the United States.
The term Asian American Pacific encompasses the Asia continent and all the Pacific islands. Like most of the commemorative months, the Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage was originated with a congress bill.
The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first young Japanese fisherman named Manjiro Nakanohama known as John Mung, who arrived to the United States on May 7, 1873. Also, he was considered as the first ambassador to Japan.
Furthermore, May 10, 1869, marks the anniversary of the first transcontinental railroad in which a majority of the workers were Chinese immigrants. These labor workers were responsible for laying railroad tracks despite the labor intensive and hazardous tasks.
On June 30, 1977, Representative Frank Horton of New York and Representative Norman Mineta of California introduced the House Joint Resolution 540 to proclaim the first 10 days of May as Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Week.
The same year, Senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga introduced a similar resolution, Senate Joint Resolution 72. Unfortunately, neither of these resolutions were passed by the congress.
Later the next year of June 19, 1978, Representative Horton introduced the House Resolution 1007. This resolution proposed the President of the United States to designate the seventh day period as Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Week.
This joint resolution was passed by the House of the Senate and successfully signed by President Jimmy Carter on Oct. 5, 1978, declaring as Public Law 95-419.
The public law amended the original bill directing the president to issue a proclamation for the seventh day period beginning on May 4, 1979, as Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Week. During the course of next decade, the president passed annual proclamations for the Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Week until May 9, 1990, when President George H.W. Bush signed Public Law 101-283. This approved bill passed by the congress expanding from a week of observance to a month.
Finally, on Oct. 23, 1992, congress passed the Public Law 102-450 designating May of each year as Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
This year, April 30, U.S. President Donald J. Trump addressed the Presidential Proclamation of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month 2019, commemorating the accomplishments of Asian Americans’ and Pacific Islanders’ heritage contribution to the enrichment of the country and defined history. Additionally, the president encouraged all Americans to learn about the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander heritage and to observe this month with appropriate programs and activities.